CARSON, Calif. (July 18, 2008) – The Baltimore Bays twice overcame deficits en route to a thrilling 4-2 overtime victory over LAFC to win the 2008 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Finals Week U-17/18 Championship on Friday night on the Glenn ‘Mooch’ Myernick Field at The U.S. Soccer National Training Center.
“This is special. This league is the best thing we have ever been a part of," said Baltimore Bays head coach Steve Nichols. "It’s the best clubs, the best teams, and an unbelievable environment. LAFC were a great team, and they had us on our heels. What a group of guys we have. Soccer ability is a lot, but heart is a lot more, and these kids showed a lot of heart today. They never gave up. To win the inaugural championship is something that these kids will never forget for the rest of their lives.”
Development Academy U-17/18 Player of the Year Chris Agorsor started the match on the bench for the Bays, nursing a knee injury that was thought to keep him out of the title bout, but, after LAFC took a quick lead on a seventh-minute goal by Kevin Mejia, he came on and was the catalyst for his team’s victory – earning Man of the Match honors.
“We worked really hard to get here, and it was a total team effort,” said Agorsor. “LAFC were strong. You have to keep believing in a tight game. The entire game we had the mentality that if we got chances we were going to score. We’re really proud of ourselves. We have been together for three years, and we went out on a high. Nothing else I can say other than we are proud the Baltimore Bays are national champions. There’s no feeling like this.”
Agorsor immediately attracted the full attention of the LAFC back line, who attempted to stop the 5-6 striker with physical play. In the 30th minute, however, Agorsor came out on top with a 30th-minute goal on a feed from Christian Barreiro.
The physical tone of the match caught up to LAFC in the 41st minute, when Patrick Chin was shown his second yellow card. The challenge of playing down a man brought the best out of LAFC, who were playing in front of a partisan, local crowd of more than 1,000.
In the 67th minute, Mejia again showed the quality that made him an Academy U-17/18 Starting XI player, as he headed in a soft back-post cross from Carlos Alvarez to put his team up 2-1.
The lead appeared to be secure, but in the 89th minute an LAFC defender took down Agorsor in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Andrew Bulls stepped up to take the spot kick and calmly converted in second-half stoppage time.
In the first overtime, Bulls would be the hero as he scored a world-class goal in the 97th minute. He got the ball in space 35 yards from goal, and with no defenders closing in Bulls hit a right-footed rocket that dipped just into the top right corner of the goal leaving Giovanni Castaneda with no chance to make the save.
The intensity of the game picked up another notch after the goal, and two more red cards were handed out. LAFC’s Kevin Orozco, who earlier had picked up a yellow, was shown a straight red for a challenge in the air in the 100th minute. Two minutes later, Baltimore’s Michael Lansing was sent off just seconds after coming in as a sub for a challenge on the opposite side of the field.
Baltimore goalkeeper Dan Louisignau had a strong overtime performance, making four of his seven saves, including tipping consecutive shots over the crossbar near the end of the first overtime.
Playing up a man, 10-v-9, the Bays tacked on an insurance goal as John Raley chipped an on-rushing Castaneda in the 108th minute.
Earlier in the day, the Columbus Crew topped the Colorado Rush 3-0 for the U-17/18 bronze medal. Travis Wall opened the scoring in the 55th minute with what proved to be the game-winner, while Matt Bonifini and John Wargo added goals later in the half.
Also on Friday, the Concorde Fire’s Cameron Wilder scored an 89th-minute winner as his team claimed fifth-place with a 3-2 victory vs. the Chicago Fire. FC Westchester needed penalty kicks to win seventh place, winning 5-4 after a 1-1 tie in regulation vs. CASL.